Fidesz, the churches, the president, and the far right

Honestly, I will change topics soon, but the country is being shaken by the aftershocks of the Hungarian Guard affair. Every day something horrendous happens that cannot be ignored. One doesn’t even know where to start. It is bad enough that, according to a public opinion poll conducted by Medián, today fewer people find the extreme right reprehensible than ten years ago. Then the number was 70%, now a bit more than 50%. What is even more alarming is that the number of those who think that the extremists call attention to real problems doubled during the same period. I must say, I am not at all surprised. In the last ten years the right-wing media has become very robust, mostly due to Orbán’s efforts. Prior to 1998 the left-leaning media ruled the market. By now, the situation is almost reversed. Moreover, the numerous right-wing papers, radios and television stations are real propaganda instruments. They don’t even pretend to be balanced in their coverage. One cannot ignore the existence of this right-wing media empire on the thinking of the population. And the number of radio and television stations is steadily growing. The latest addition was the Lánchíd Rádió (Chain Bridge Radio, named after the first bridge built across the Danube between Pest and Buda in 1842); it began broadcasting on March 15, 2007.

And with this new radio station we arrive at the most horrendous news of the day. On the radio’s homepage appeared a composite picture depicting Gábor Szetey, one of the undersecretaries of the Prime Minister’s office, who, alone among Hungarian politicians, admitted that he was gay. The image is really despicable. Szetey stands at the gates of Auschwitz with a pink triangle on his lapel.

Note, by the way, that Lánchíd Rádió is owned by the same group that owns HírTV (a television station specializing in news), Magyar Nemzet, a daily newspaper, and Heti Válasz, a weekly. All of these are mouthpieces of right-wing politics. The HírTV is vicious, so is Magyar Nemzet; the Heti Válasz is a bit more moderate. The Lánchíd Rádió is called an “organ close to the Fidesz.”

Admittedly, the picture was removed within hours and two of the editors were sacked. One of the fired editors, who was responsible for the day’s content of the homepage, was Gabriella Veress, Fidesz representative of the 20th district council in Budapest. She was not only sacked from her job, but she also resigned from the Fidesz caucus, thus automatically losing her party affiliation. Whether she did this on her own or was helped a bit from the big chief, it’s hard to tell. The radio station profusely apologized in a letter to Szetey and made a public apology on its homepage. Here is the link: http://www.lanchidradio.hu/ I should also mention that there was at least one employee of the radio station who thought otherwise. According to him “every editor can decide what article he wants to publish and what picture he includes to accompany it.”The picture was taken off, but of course it can be seen on the internet on other homepages. I found it on a “neonazi university student’s blog” but I don’t want to advertise the site. Instead one can look at it as it appeared on the Origo online newspaper’s homepage: http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20070829-szetey-gabort-auschwitzban-abrazolo-foto-ellen-tiltakozott-a-kormany.html

The reaction from the other side was also swift. Prime Minister Gyurcsány, with his whole cabinet behind him, gave a press conference. In very strong words he and his fellow ministers condemned this fascist revival and again called on Viktor Orbán and President Sólyom to condemn the events of the past few days in no uncertain terms.

The president’s spokesman, Ferenc Kumin, pretty well answered the prime minister. Sólyom already said what he had to say on the subject on Sunday (through Kumin). He condemns the demonstrations aimed at creating fear but he also condemns the other side’s exaggeration of the significance of these events. These are not his exact words but this is their meaning. This didn’t seem to be satisfactory to the government, but it is unlikely that Sólyom will change his mind on the subject. He is not that kind of man.

Gyurcsány called on Orbán to condemn the extreme right and break off relations with the Jobbik and to expel from his party Mária Wittner, Fidesz member of parliament, and András Bencsik, editor of the Magyar Demokrata (an antisemitic weekly) and a party member, both of whom were present at the swearing in ceremony. Ibolya Dávid, head of the moderate center-right party, the MDF, just as emphatically demanded a definitive response from Orbán. From the Fidesz there has so far been silence, but I’m almost certain that Orbán will not oblige.

Meanwhile, the government, the MSZP, and the SZDSZ demanded similar explanations from the churches whose leaders kept repeating that the three clergymen were not representing them. Moreover, today church leaders decided to attack instead of trying to defend themselves. They expressed their total amazement at the concerted attack on the churches. For no good reason, of course. Well, that’s where we stand today.